Bessette-Sinclair article in Real Clear Policy on Capital Punishment

CMC professors Joseph Bessette and Andrew Sinclair recently released the results of two Rose Institute-sponsored national surveys of public attitudes toward the death penalty.  The surveys, conducted in 2019 and 2020, polled approximately 5,000 respondents. The surveys provide evidence that Americans hold nuanced views regarding capital punishment, and that by some measures their support for the death penalty is much higher than previously thought. Other recent polls (by Gallup and Pew) have asked Americans the generic question of whether they support capital punishment for persons convicted of murder.  In these surveys, support for the death penalty ranged between 55% and 60%.  The new surveys probed further to ask respondents whether they supported the death penalty for persons convicted of various types of aggravated murder.  Bessette and Sinclair found that between 72% and 76% of respondents voiced support for capital punishment for either all murders or the most aggravated murders.  They also found that when given a list of aggravated murders as potentially meriting the death penalty, between 80% and 86% of respondents chose at least one.  Bessette and Sinclair summarized their findings in this report and in an article recently published in Real Clear Policy.  The new surveys are part of the Rose Institute’s broader survey research program, supervised by Professor Sinclair.

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